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San Bernardino Public Library Supports Footsteps2Brilliance Early Literacy Program

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- The San Bernardino Public Library (SBPL) has joined in supporting a new countywide early literacy program called Footsteps2Brilliance which is part of the San Bernardino Countywide Vision2Read literacy campaign, a collective impact initiative involving multiple agencies working collaboratively to increase literacy rates among children and families in the county.

The library has posted a link to the program on its library website at www.sbpl.org. Parents interested in signing up for the app for their children can go to www.myf2b.com/register/sanbernardinocounty.

“On behalf of our Library Board of Trustees, we’re very pleased in promoting this wonderful effort to promote early childhood education and early literacy in our city” said SBPL Library Director Ed Erjavek.

The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, County Preschool Services, Children’s Fund and First 5 San Bernardino are partnering to deliver the new literacy program.

Footsteps2Brilliance is an innovative early learning mobile technology platform that provides free access to early literacy activities to all families with children, birth through Pre-K, who reside in San Bernardino County. The program provides a comprehensive curriculum of more than 1,000 English and Spanish books, songs and games that are fun for children and address the vocabulary gap, according to the following press release from the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.

“Literacy is a priority in our county. Early literacy skills lay the foundation for a child’s success from cradle to career,” County Superintendent Ted Alejandre said. “Children who are not proficient readers by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.”

In January 2017, a cohort of 1,500 students in county preschool programs were selected to use Footsteps2Brilliance and measure their literacy growth. To date, participating preschoolers have read 22,240 books and more than 5.1 million words. As part of the launch, Alejandre and program partners are encouraging all families with birth through pre-K children in the county to join a challenge to read an additional 3 million words by Sept. 1, 2017.

“Footsteps2Brilliance enables us to cross the divide between children who have a seat in a preschool and those who do not,” said Diana Alexander, director of Preschool Services for the county. “We get to provide all birth through pre-K children with an amazing literacy software program that will bring several modes of learning right into their home. This is an exciting time for San Bernardino County!”

Among the benefits of Footsteps2Brilliance is that the platform’s educational resources can be accessed from any smartphone, tablet or computer with or without an Internet connection. Research shows that more than 80 percent of parents own smartphones or mobile devices.

“Through the Footsteps2Brilliance platform, families, schools and the community have access to high-quality educational tools to accelerate vocabulary and literacy skills using the devices they already own,” noted Karen Scott, executive director of First 5 San Bernardino.

According to Stacy Iverson – president and CEO of Children’s Fund – every dollar spent on quality early childhood interventions produces a $14-$17 return.

“No single strategy offers a greater return on investment than providing children with the tools they need to read proficiently by third grade,” she said.

Research shows the greatest disparity of knowledge among children is the vocabulary gap – the number of words a child knows from birth through third grade. Children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words before the age of four than their more affluent peers. This is compounded by the fact that 61 percent of low-income children have no books in their homes.

Approximately 20 percent of families in San Bernardino County live in poverty and 34 percent speak Spanish in the home (according to census data). Based on data from the California Department of Education, nearly 19 percent of school-aged students are classified as English Learners and more than 72 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch.

The San Bernardino County literacy partnership is unique and will serve as a blueprint around the nation to achieve early literacy success in dual language communities on a countywide basis.

“We are honored to partner with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools to give all children equal access to high-quality bilingual English and Spanish literacy instruction. Already, we have seen this unique countywide collaboration bring the community together with a strong commitment and a plan to support all early learners. We believe this will be a powerful model for other districts across the nation to follow,” said Ilene Rosenthal, CEO of Footsteps2Brilliance.

Ronald McDonald House of Charities Awards $233,000 in Scholarships to 85 Southern California Students

LOS ANGELES, CA- Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California (RMHCSC), in partnership with Southern California McDonald’s operators, is helping 85 of the Southland’s brightest and most deserving high school seniors make their college dreams a reality this fall by awarding more than $233,000 in scholarships. Since 1990, RMHCSC has helped pave the way toward higher education for more than 3,400 exceptional Southern California students, providing more than $5.7 million in funds to help ease the financial burden of college tuition, fees and educational expenses. Selected from a pool of more than 1,400 applicants, the 2016-17 RMHCSC Scholarship Program recipients were recently recognized at a celebratory luncheon that took place at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Poornima Vijayashanker, engineer and founder of education company Femgineer, delivered the keynote address and Univision network’s Fernanda Kelly served as master of ceremonies.

“This year’s group of young scholars has truly inspired us with their extraordinary accomplishments and commitment to their community,” said Vince Bryson, CEO, RMHCSC. “We’re excited to see them achieve their educational dreams and are confident that their successes will motivate the next generation.”

Every year, RMHCSC supports outstanding college-bound students across Southern California through four competitive RMHC scholarships: RMHC/Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources, RMHC/African American Future Achievers, RMHC/Asian Pacific American Students Increasing Achievement, and RMHC/Scholars. Award recipients are selected through a rigorous application process based on a number of criteria including academic achievement, community involvement, leadership skills, letters of recommendation and financial need.

Funding is made possible through the fundraising efforts of more than 120 local McDonald’s operators in Southern California, McDonald’s corporate staff and the global and Southern California chapters of RMHC. Additionally, the McDonald’s Operators’ Association of Southern California (MOASC) pays for all administrative costs for managing the scholarship program.

Interested students can begin the 2018-19 application process in October 2017. For more information, please visit www.rmhcsc.org/scholarships.

Letter to the Editor

By Sophia Rome

The money bail system has long been a norm in the United States and is widely accepted as the routine that follows someone’s arrest. While most people know what money, bail is, most are not aware of the need for immense reform in the system. Evidently, this system is broken and creates more financial hardship for accused people of lower socioeconomic status, as well as for the state. Currently there are discussions taking place in the California State Assembly regarding the passage of bills for reforming the bail system in California. The first one, AB 42, has been stalled, while another, SB 10, appears to have a more hopeful future. As such, it is more important than ever for community members to mobilize in support of this type of legislation. This is especially important in those districts where the representative assembly member abstained from voting on AB 42, including Eloise Gómez Reyes, whose district includes a large part of the city of San Bernardino.

When someone is arrested for anything – such as stealing a chocolate bar, getting pulled over while already in debt for other traffic tickets, or being involved in someone else’s criminal situation – the process of temporary liberation before trial, known as the bail system needs to be followed, with conditions set by the judge to ensure that the defendant will appear in court. These conditions are usually quite a high fee; the median bail in California is around $50,000. The majority of people are not able to pay this amount of money, hence the fact that about 60% of those incarcerated in the U.S. today are still awaiting their trials simply because they cannot pay their bail. In other words, hundreds of thousands of people in jail have not yet been convicted, and their presence in jail costs the state and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Furthermore, those who want to avoid being incarcerated before their trials often seek services from bail bondsmen. This type of bondsman has financial support from the nation’s large insurance companies, and works to give loans to people to pay their bail. However, those who receive help from bail bondsmen need to pay them a downpayment of around 10% of their bail amount, on top of an interest rate; in the end, a person can need to continue paying a bail bondsman for over a year. As if this weren’t enough, if someone who was able to pay bail is then found innocent in his or her trial, the bail money will be returned; meanwhile if someone who asked a bail bondsman for help is then found innocent in his or her trial, the bail money will NOT be returned.

So, our organization, Bend the Arc, has a moral and political mission. In the California Assembly the bill AB 42 Bail, has currently been stalled; however, the bill SB 10 is still on the horizon.

“This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to safely reduce the number of people detained pretrial, while addressing racial and economic disparities in the pretrial system, to ensure that people are not held in pretrial detention simply because of the inability to afford money bail.” – excerpt from text of Assembly Bill 42, also present in SB 10

The proposed system would initiate a slower and more meticulous process of deciding an accused person’s bail terms. It intends to abandon the system of asking for high fees from accused people, and replace it with a legal contract in which the accused signs to assure his or her appearance in court. Discussions about the passage of this bill continue in the assembly, and we are working to mobilize Southern California residents to encourage their assembly members to vote in favor of SB 10, and bring up discussions about AB 42 once again.

In coalition with many other social justice organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ella Baker Center, the Essie Justice Group and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Bend the Arc has committees focused on a wide range of social justice issues for which we organize action. Evidently, the movement for bail reform cannot happen without the support of everyday citizens, constituents of the California State Assembly members. Whether it be calling assemblymember Reyes’s office, helping us organize a lobby visit with Reyes, watching and/or hosting a screening of a short documentary made by the organization Brave New Films to address this issue or realizing any other form of community action, the support of the residents of this district is more important than ever.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.


Sophia Rome